The thing you need to know about Shawn Mendes is that he was a Vine kid. More importantly, he was one of those Vine kids who didn’t use the platform for tormenting unsuspecting parents or siblings, but rather used it mostly for showcasing musical talents that would have otherwise remained hidden. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a wide smile, Mendes would post short clips of him covering various Ed Sheeran, One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer songs (and even a Beyoncé track thrown in here and there). His rise to fame started here, under the pastel green curl of Vine’s logo, vocals restricted to bite-sized, five-second long segments.
It’s a shallow personability that has remained constant throughout his music, even as Mendes stepped away from Vine, entered into record contracts and started releasing original albums. His songs lack substance, depth or dynamism, instead just minute variations on the same easily-consumable, bred-for-radio sound that has been recycled throughout generations of generic pop stars from Ed Sheeran to Charlie Puth. And it isn’t a bad sound — catchy hooks and predictable melodies are easy to sing along to when you’re stuck in bad traffic — but it’s one that lacks originality; music that never goes beyond established constraints.
Shawn Mendes’s newest single, “Lost In Japan” follows the same formula — easily memorable “Can’t get you off my mind” a bow on top of the whole shiny, auto-tune slathered chorus — only with an “edgy” R&B twist. Rather than authentic, the dancing synth and energetic tempo’s upbeat pulse are only reminiscent of Calvin Harris’s Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1, and Shawn Mendes finds himself continuing to rip off those who came before him.
To be fair, Mendes is not a bad artist. His vocal range is astounding, natural falsetto reaches add texture to every lackluster melody and, as he jumps from the smooth crescendo of the chorus into the abrupt “I could feel the tension / We could cut it with a knife” of verse one, Mendes is graceful, never allowing the delicate warmth of his voice to falter.
“Lost In Japan” is nothing new. Similar to the breezy triviality of what came before it — songs like “There’s Nothing Holding You Back” or “Treat You Better” — the single’s best feature is its consumerism — the nearly universal sentiment that can be found within Mendes’s manufactured confession of love.